5 World-Class Seaside Spas
Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur, California
Perched on a cliff 1,200 feet above the ocean, Post Ranch Inn and Spa has developed a cult following for its laid-back luxury and immediate connection to nature. On one side, it faces the Pacific Ocean and on the other, the granite peaks of the Santa Lucia Mountains. The spa's floor-to-ceiling windows maximize the arresting mountain views, but guest room treatments also have their perks: Rooms are equipped with massage tables, large indoor spa tubs, fireplaces, and, for guests staying in a Pacific Suite or the Cliff or Peak houses, a hot tub on the balcony.
Five-Star Treatments: Try the Big Sur Jade Stone Therapy ($220): The soothing massage uses warmed jade from the Big Sur coastline, basalt from surrounding rivers, and cool marble. Follow it with a heavenly aromatherapy body wrap.
Rates start at $775; 800/527-2200 or postranchinn.com.
Anara Spa at the Grand Hyatt Kauai, Hawaii
The Anara Spa, at 45,000 square feet, would qualify for mansion status if it were indoors, but this mostly outdoor setting (only the sauna is indoors) is surrounded by tropical gardens with exotic flowers and birds galore. "Rooms" have private gardens and outdoor lava rock showers, and many treatments incorporate local ingredients and traditions. Treatments start in the thatch roofed relaxation room with a foot soak and scrub. To ensure maximum Zen, book an ocean-view room in the Poipu wing nearest to the spa (and farthest away from the lobby, with its squawking resident parrots).
Five-Star Treatments: The Majestic Noni ($350, billed as a jet lag buster) is a 110-minute journey that begins with a macadamia nut and noni fruit scrub, followed by an herbal wrap, an application of noni elixir mask, and a massage with kukui nut oil.
Rates start at $440; 808/742-1234 or anaraspa.com.
InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa Deep Ocean Spa by Algotherm
After checking in to one of the opulent over-water bungalows, with views of Mount Otemanu across the lagoon, it's just a few steps down a ladder into the water (which really is that clear and that blue) to swim with colorful fish or just float under the sun. A maze of corridors with thatched roofs leads to secluded sitting areas alongside small wading pools, a Jacuzzi with a view of Mount Otemanu, and a lounge where guests can recline and sip herbal tea while pondering the lush tropical scenery. Ask for an over-water spa suite with partial glass floors. Note: Fish are voyeurs.
Five-Star Treatments: The Deep Blue treatment ($311) starts with a hydro-massage bath in a tub outfitted with strategically positioned jets, plus a touch of chromatherapy (lights built into the tub change color to affect mood). That's followed by a marine body wrap and a full-body massage while under a Vichy shower.
Rates start at $1,145; 68/960-7600 or tahiti.intercontinental.com.
Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur, India
From the moment you disembark on the ornate dock of Taj Lake Palace (originally a Maharaja's pleasure playground), you will feel like royalty, serenaded by musicians while being showered with rose petals and sipping cool cocktails. Almost every interior surface is ornately carved or covered with something sparkly or colorful. While there is a perfectly beautiful spa in the palace complex that specializes in Ayurvedic treatments, it would be a mistake to miss the hotel's very own Spa Boat. Anchored away from the palace to ensure privacy and a great view of the Aravalli mountains, this floating spa suite has an outdoor soaking tub on deck, alongside a lounging bed where snacks and drinks are set.
Five-Star Treatments: Here, it's the Masala spice scrub (a blend of sandalwood, turmeric, and rice grains), followed by the Vishram massage of alternating palm and thumb strokes using an oil blend of the native, rose-scented kewda and sesame oil.
Rates start at $675; 91/294/242-8800 or tajhotels.com.
Grand Velas, Riviera Maya, Mexico
Here, it's all about water. Never mind the 86 oceanfront acres or the beach's perfect white sand; the spa itself is like an adult water park: Almost half of its whopping 89,000 square feet is devoted to a water lounge. It's set up as a circuit with eight different "experiences," from the sauna, hot tub, and cold plunge to the color therapy steam room, ice room (for cooling down), and clay room (where you slather yourself and kick back in the heat).
The real star, though, is the pool, with its built-in massage stations: a cascading waterfall, a bubble volcano geyser, and submerged "bubble beds" (chaises with massaging jets).
Five-Star Treatments: The people of ancient Mexico believed obsidian helped dissolve anger, criticism, and fear. Indeed, you won't feel much but relaxed after the muscle-melting (in a good way) Sacred Obsidian Stone Massage ($298).
Rates start at $335 per person (all-inclusive with a $50 daily spa credit); 877/418-2963 or rivieramaya.grandvelas.com.